Year Released: 2014
Directed by: Roger Donaldson
Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Luke Bracey, Olga Kurylenko
(R, 108 minutes)
Genre: Mystery and suspense, Action and Adventure
"Revenge is a dish best served cold." Sicilian Proverb
This 2014 spy thriller marries the hard-hitting action of 007 with the world-weariness of John le Carré’s spies. It avoids the over the top camp of some Bond adventures and refuses to yield to the cynical despair of the more recent le Carré.
The film, starring the former Bond Pierce Brosnan as Peter Devereaux, a spy lured out of retirement for one last mission, features the tag line, “A spy is never out of the game.” Which shows that former 007 Brosnan, himself a producer as well as the star, knows how to have a little fun, even if his “lethal, brutal, and laconic” Devereaux does not. “Devereuax goes back into the spy world, older, and having already done the gig, same as Pierce,” his co-producer Beau St. Clair reminds us.
And it works. It works very well. Don’t pay attention to those sniveling little critics at Rotten Tomatoes who only like their spies when their mission fails, like Daniel Craig in Skyfall, darkened, diminished, and deconstructed, the first Bond ever who completely fails in his mission.
They are the ones who swooned over Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s air of incipient defeat in A Most Wanted Man.
And many were secretly thrilled with Matt Damon’s 2006 portrait of the early days of the C.I.A. in The Good Shepherd and its glimpse at a shadowy world of suspicion that slowly erodes the soul.
One reason November Man works is Brosnan himself, still looking quite spiffy at 61, with just the right hint of gray about the temples and eyes that speak of a past he might rather forget. As he learns from a former handler, his secret codename was “the November Man,” since when he appeared, death was soon to follow. He portrays his emotions best by trying to hide them, except for a single unguarded moment when the betrayal becomes personal.
But Brosnan doesn’t carry the whole picture himself as some have wrongly suggested. The actions scenes between him and his former spy protégé and now adversary David Mason (Luke Bracey) are quickly paced and peppered with a taunting rivalry carried on by cell phone as they skirt through the streets of Belgrade. While David thinks he is surrounding his former mentor, the November Man is merely luring them in for the kill. And the kills are clean, more or less, shot old school with little or no computer generated imagery. Also lacking are any qualms about annihilating the bad guys, or too much time trying to decide who they are, for that matter. That, of course, will upset the nuance crowd.
Olga Kurylenko, masquerading as a naïve social worker, goes from wholesome softie to something resembling a lovely and lethal Bond girl here. Perhaps she draws on her past as the lovely Camille from Quantum of Solace, where revenge was her secret high-octane fuel as well.
Just as some pundidts did back in 2012, a few critics dismiss Arkady Federov (Lazar Ristovski), the Russian Putin like villain, as a relic of the 80s. However, recent events make the Russian menace in The November Man quite realistic, right down to an alleged false flag bombing in Chechnya as well as the ever-expanding sex trade.
Nikki Finke, a “ruthless Hollywood blogger,” once referred to the November Man novels by Bill Granger as “one of the 10 great unmade espionage series ever written.”
Well, thanks to the determination of Peirce Brosnan and his Irish DreamTime production company, this espionage thriller is no longer “unmade.” So get yourself out to the theater and soak up the action, the betrayals, and the lovely taste of revenge served cold.
Before he is lured back into the spy world and the dark streets or Belgrade Serbia, Peter Devereaux is enjoying his retirement from the spook world running a lakeside café in the rolling green hills of Switzerland.
We don’t get a glance at his menu, so quickly does he depart, but I have a lovely suggestion. This authentic fondue is enhanced by wonderful cheeses, fontina and Gruyere and topped with white truffles – those fancy Dan mushrooms. You can certainly use whatever mushrooms you prefer or have at hand. A wonderful appetizer or light lunch, wouldn’t you say?
Our recipe today is from Different Drummer’s own Appetite for Murder: A Mystery Lover’s Cookbook, the “Lederhosen and Legerdemain” chapter about the “death” of Sherlock Holmes in Switzerland. (You can get a free download sample and order directly from this site using the links at the left.)
Fondue Brillat-Savarin with Sliced White Truffles
1 pound Gruyere or fontina cheese, grated
1 cup milk
4 tablespoons butter
4 egg yolks or 2 whole eggs, lightly beaten
A 3 1/2-ounce can white truffles, finely sliced or mushrooms if you prefer.
Freshly ground black pepper
Soak the cheese in the milk for 1/2 hour. Melt the butter in an earthenware casserole or chafing dish. Add the cheese, milk, and eggs. Stir with a wooden spoon over low heat until the cheese is melted and the mixture is creamy and smooth. Cover with a topping of thinly sliced white truffles and pepper. Serve over toast.